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Puntland President Abdirahman Sheikh Mohammed Mohamud (Farole) announced that Puntland has launched an oil drilling operation at Dharoor valley of Bari region, in an interview with BBC Somali service.
“The rig is already there and all the essential requirements like the material and the personnel are also there. The government had first concentrated the securing of the Dharoor valley and in fact it did. Now we are beginning the drilling operation of the first well and then we will start the drilling of next well in Dharoor valley,” explained the president.
“The oil drilling is now focused at Dharoor valley then we are going to also begin the oil exploration operation at Nugaal valley block,” he added.
President Farole said that oil returns will be spent on creating social service programs including health, education, and infrastructure and improving security.
Recently the port of Bosaso witnessed unprecedented deliveries of heavy materials including the drill rig, according to local officials.
"The rig that is due to begin the oil drilling operation is now at Ciira-dhame and the oil drilling operation is to be launched at next week. A ceremony will be held at Ciira-dhame on the 16th or 17th of this month and President Farole will go there and officially open the drilling operation," a Bosaso presidential official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Somalia Report.
Africa Oil Corp and its joint venture partner and operator Ranger Resources Ltd had contracted with the former Puntland government under Gen. Ade Muse Hersi to begin oil exploration and drilling, but the operation was suspended on April 2008 following rising threats from Islamic groups in southern Somalia and piracy activities in Puntland.
Communities welcome the project
The Puntland communities in Bari region supported this move and called on the government to focus on social service programs and rebuilding the infrastructure of Puntland.
"I welcome this oil drilling and I believe this will be very important to our development. I am very proud that Puntland will be the first Somali region to drill and export oil. I well welcome this with joy," Ahmed Mahamed Mahamud (Imam), a Mogadishu University, Bosaso Branch student told Somalia Report.
"Basically this is a very important step forward for the development of our community in Dharoor and Puntland at large and Somalia as well," said Mohamud Bile, a Bosaso resident who hails from Dharoor area.
“Definitely the Puntland government is praised for the success of the oil drilling operation and I believe this is good for the security and development of the Puntland people and all Somalis," Ahmed Ibrahim Harrago, a Bosaso resident and well known elder, told Somalia Report.
The Puntland government is combating a militia led by Mohammed Said Atom allegedly linked to al-Shabaab insurgents in the Galgala Mountains and many residents and officials think that they may sabotage this operation, after al-Shabaab fighters recently shifted to the Atom's base.
“I am very concerned that the Islamists may attempt to foil the operation, but the government insists there are organized, well-trained and heavily armed troops based at Dharoor valley," Omar Said, an independent political analyst, told Somalia Report.
In addition to potential al-Shabaab attacks, the operation has faced resistance from local militias.
Last month an Africa Oil convey was attacked and again last July by a local militia from Ufeyn, which resented what they called foreign exploitation.